Child practitioners know how to interact with young children, they ask them direct questions and wait for a response. It's very easy for parents, standing with their child, to hear a question, whether it be asked by a childminder or teacher, or a friend or relative, and to answer the question on behalf of the child. It's so easy to do this that it can be pretty difficult not to. Try to avoid doing this though, it really is important that children learn to engage in conversation and that they learn to listen, interpret and respond to questions in their own right.
As a parent, you don't want to show up your child, or have them stuck in an awkward situation where they don't understand a question. This is such an important part of language development though that you really aren't doing them any favours when you respond on their behalf.
When granny asks 'What have you been doing today?', or the childminder asks 'Is it sunny outside?', there's a really high probability that they already know the answer. Adults are sympathetic to the knowledge of young children and don't ask searching questions requiring a comprehensive, in-depth, analytical response. They are asking in order to engage with the child, to help build a bond and in order to allow the child to practice language. The enquirer isn't usually looking for a definitive answer, they probably aren't even interested in the correct answer; instead they simply want to hear the answer in the child's own words. If parents wade in with the answer then they are denying the child the opportunity to speak for themselves.
If you recognise this behaviour in yourself then try to spot it in your interactions with those around your children. If you are aware that you are doing it, then you will be able to pause, think about it, and then stop before giving an answer. If it's a deep rooted habit that you have developed then it may take a little time to coax yourself away from it, but you will get there eventually.
Many of our members are professional childminders and have expressed concern at potential changes to the way that childminders are regulated in the UK. In March, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector for OFSTED, told a select committee that OFSTED inspections of childminders are disproportionately expensive when compared to school and nursery inspections and stated that their future is 'unsustainable'.
More recently, Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, has published a report examining the high costs of childcare in the UK for parents, compared with other European nations, and proposes a new agency model of regulation moving forwards.
Childminders are right to interpret these as challenges to the way that they work. Currently childcare providers feel that being treated on a par with nurseries sends a positive message to parents that they offering a professional service. Deregulating childcare could allow the market to be flooded by cheap and unqualified providers.
Note that proposed changes will NOT see the EYFS being dismantled, this is expected to stay through any regulatory changes to the industry overall.
If you wish to add your voice to those demanding that the government researches these proposals more thoroughly then add their signature to a petition at this website:
While Nannies, Childminders and Au Pairs are all there to help look after your children, the terms of engagement are very different, and that is what distinguishes the different roles.
A Nanny is paid to come into your house and help look after the children. A nany has set hours and will generally work to a routine, but usually only looks after your children, possibly alongside her own. You effectively employ a nanny and they have certain employment rights, including the ability to take paid maternity leave.
A childminder is someone who you pay to look after your children in their own setting. They may pick children up from your home or from school, you usually have set hours and may be responsible for paying additional for any overtime incurred. They will usually be OFSTED registered and inspected, and will look after a children from various families, often of varying age groups.
An au pair is someone who looks after your children, usually in return for board and lodging and a small amount of 'pocket money' (typically less than £100 per week). Au Pair's are usually foreign nationals and often young women and men taking a 'gap year' before or after higher education and are generally looking to spend some time in this country and improve their language skills. In addition to working an agreed number of hours looking after children, they may do light housework and other chores such as cooking meals. Usually an au pair is a 'live in' position so you must have a spare room for them to live in, and you must share bathroom and kitchen facilities as required.
You will generally have a contract in place for each of these types of role, and you should look at insurance cover to make sure that they are covered for the work they do for you. All may look after children of all ages, including babies, although they are restricted by law as to how many children of different age group they may look after at once. Therefore, for practical reasons, not all child carers have the necessary space to take on your children, and they may focus on offering services to children of a specific age or attending certain settings or schools.
In 2008/2009, only 9% childminders were graded 'Outstanding' but with 55% making 'Good' and 30% 'Satisfactory', there's little to worry about in the provision of childcare on the whole. But what makes turns a Good childminder into an Outstanding one?
OFTSED recognise a number of features that contribute towards the award of an Outstanding review, and it's largely not about what you do in your setting, but what goes on around and outside of it.
The overwhelming contributing factors highlighted by OFSTED are those of continual reflection and improvement...childminders must never stand still! Factors include:-
- Continually working with parents and other carers to exchange information about the child and family (this plays a more important role in EYFS 2012 to be introduced in September)
- Continually reflecting on their provision and looking at how they might improve
- Attending regular training on educational and developmental matters and gaining recognised childcare qualifications
- Having an excellent understanding of the EYFS areas of learning
- Reviewing and revising procedures and policies on a regular basis
- Using external resources including OFSTED self-evaluation forms, childminder advisers and local network and quality schemes to help identify and implement improvements
Having all the toys in the world, cooking the best food or playing the best games with your children alone won't achieve Outstanding status. An Oustanding childminder almost needs to treat their work as a career rather than a job.
A recent survey by the Daycare Trust shows that over half of nurseries in London have seen a fall in demand over the past year. This appears to be part of a wider picture of falling demand for childcare and will be of particular concern to nursery providers. As the economy continues to face uncertain times, more and more mothers are choosing not to return to work after having babies, and that is one factor fueling the fall in demand for childcare places.
Rising childcare costs (more than twice the rate of inflation over the last year) are forcing many mothers to ditch work and look after young family themselves. The average cost of childcare in England is £5,028 a year, rising to over £6,000 a year in London. This is income that has already been taxed, and the cost of putting more than one child into childcare just becomes eye-watering!
Increasingly, at the moment, mothers are leaving work to raise their children at home.
On top of this, nursery providers have found that their costs are rising fast too, which is the main contributing factor to the rising cost of nursery places. Rent rates have jumped hugely over the last few years, but so have many of their other costs including food, staff training and all the essential supplies needed by a nursery. It seems that as the economy has suffered over the last few years, the global reaction has just been to raise prices for goods and services to make up for slump in demand. This isn't going to hold much longer - something is going to break. The logical conclusion of this spiral of rising prices pushing down demand is that we will see nurseries closing and nursery chains going out of business.
This isn't all bad news for private childminders. The additional costs of nursery provision will see a move towards more flexible childminders, with lower associated costs, so we predict a boom in private childcare provision over the next few years. We are also seeing more babies being nurtured by their own families in their domestic setting, and that too has to be a good thing. Whilst nurseries and childcare offer a wonderful service, allowing families to continue working, there is a lot to be said for not having to have two incomes simply to live from day to day. Families that choose to stay home and raise children may have to cut back in some areas, but the marginal difference of a second salary after tax and childcare is making the 'stay at home' option look increasingly attractive!
As our children grow day by day, there are many small changes that we may not notice; using a diary can help you observe and identify change over a longer period. Observational diaries are a good instrument for observing and monitoring over a long period. Simply keeping a diary of what you do each day will highlight long term changes in development because when you compare entries weeks or months apart, you will see that your little ones are undertaking activities that were previously beyond their capabilities.
Diaries are a useful tool to explore long term concerns that you have, for example, to help identify what triggers certain physical conditions or behavioural patterns in your child. If your child is prone to allergies, you might want to log what they eat, where you have been during the day, what the weather was like and how their allergies were manifested. Over time you might pick out certain triggers such as food types, weather patterns or locations. By isolating the causes you can then learn to avoid them.
If your children are cared for by childminders during the day then you should ask them to undertake monitoring for you, and to keep a regular diary. ToucanLearn offers a Daily Diary which can be used for such purposes, fill entries in regularly and then look through them every couple of weeks in order to try to ascertain what you are looking for.
What overall considerations should I have to find the perfect Nanny for my family?
Looking for a Nanny for your family does not have to be a struggle. Below are 6 points to hopefully help you make the process easier.
1: Think about your ideal nanny. Write a list of your expectations. What personality and experience you would like your Nanny to have? What duties you would like her to do, for example Nursery duties only or light household duties. Write your requirements down - including "required" and "Would like", use this when you are interviewing as a guideline. Work out what you can afford for a nanny so when you discuses salary with the Nanny you have an idea what you can afford.
2: Look at what avenues you are going to go down to look for a nanny. Are you going to use a Nanny Agency, advertising in a local Newspaper, ask friends and family if they know of any good Nannies or search on the internet? More and more families are using the Internet to find Childcare as they are finding it is a much cheaper alternative. All the above have advantages and disadvantages, but all have the same objective: to help you compile a list of potential Nannies.
3: Make contact with potential candidates. Once you have got your list of potential candidates, you will need to find out weather they are interested and suitability for the position. First contact might be by phone or email not face to face. Once you have made contact and asked some question and are satisfied by the answers, you will need to arrange an interview date.
4: Interview date. Don’t forget your list of "required" and "would like". You will need to make a list of questions you would like to ask a Nanny, (Totally Childcare has got a list of question to ask when interviewing a nanny). Most families prefer to do the first interview in the evening when the child/children are in bed and if they like the Nanny then call her back for a second interview, this is normally done over the weekend to meet the children and spend some time together to see how they interact with each other.
5: Checking Reference and CRB (Police Checks). It is highly recommend that you check at least two references, one from the current employment if they are working as a nanny at present and one from a past employment. If they have not got two employment references for you to contact then a character reference will do. A CRB (police check) needs to be done, this can take up to 4/6 weeks to complete. Most nannies have got this already but if this is out of date a new one will need to be done.
6: Employing your chosen Nanny! Once you have found the right Nanny and offered the position and she has accepted the finer details will need to be put down in a Contract of Employment (Totally Childcare has got a standard Employment Contract which you can download and use). This will need to be signed by both parties and each have a copy to keep. Most families have a hand over period before they go back to work; this is so the Nanny can get to know the child/children while mum or dad is still around. It also helps the nanny to see what routine the children have and if they got to school they can be shown where this is and be introduced to their teacher. Contact numbers will need to be given to the new nanny in case of an emergency. A diary for the nanny is a good idea, here she can write down what the child/children have done during the day, what they have eaten and if they have had or not had a dirty nappy etc. This can be helpful for the parents to read when the Nanny has gone home and answer any questions if the child/children is not too happy in the evening. A purse with some money in it for use during the day for the children’s activities is also a good idea, receipts should be provided so there is no confusion as to what they have spent the money on.
If you can remember all of the above steps than hopefully finding a Nanny will be an easy process.
We've progressed a long way from the Victorian days when children were best kept our of sight and out of mind, but the sad truth is that modern living often means that your children spend more time with a childminder than they do with you. Are you kept informed of how your children are doing, and do you have a good idea of their progress?
The government's Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requires for child minders, carers and nursery teachers actively to keep records of every child's progress. Make sure that you are getting the level of information you want about your children and how they are developing. If you aren't hearing enough, then ask for more - if you feel your childminder is being too diligent, then they will be delighted to be asked to reign back a bit and tell you just what you want to hear!
At ToucanLearn, every child receives their own Daily Diary designed especially for childminders to share information with parents. By sharing the Daily Diary you can stay informed about what your children are doing every day. This service can be used for free, but premium members can also upload photos to keep a photographic record of everything they do too.
We know from feedback that we receive about our service that many parents are able to view what their children are doing throughout the day - they can see pictures of new artwork once it has been uploaded, and they can read what their little ones are making, doing and eating during the day. Here at ToucanLearn we're dedicated to helping working parents share as much information about their children as they can. If you don't feel you are getting the information you want from your childminder, why not ask them to start posting a Daily Diary in ToucanLearn? Our FREE service means they don't even have to spend a penny to do so!
Sending your child to a childminder or nursery may actually help them in later life, according to a recent study. Many working parents hesitate before sending their children to a carer, wondering how the separation will effect the child in later life. However, according to one academic it does them good to be away from home for a few hours! So, parents working long hours need not worry. Mothers returning to work, need not feel guilty!
The Professor in charge of the study claims that those children who were in a cared for environment aged 2 and under, do actually go on to form better relationships later on when at school. She said that nursery does the vast majority no harm at all. Previous studies had concluded that children who were not at home most of the time when under 2 turned out to be more agressive when attending school, were more difficult to disipline and more inclined to be naughty and lead others astray. But this new research disputes that, stating that this doesn't appear be the case.
The study followed 3,000 children over a 14 year period from 1996. Parents have welcomed the findings, many of whom had believed earlier studies which suggested that there was a link between attendance at a nursery and aggression in later life, plus impaired social skills.
Of course, there are various ways of ensuring your child is in the best possible setting. Speak to other parents - get their opinion and recommendations. Check thoroughly the standards of care whether it be a nursery or childminder. Drop in, unannounced, and see what is going on!
Making a child feel comfortable and 'at home' when they are actually away from home at a childminder's or nursery can be hard because every child is different and has different associations and needs. Some children settle very quickly in a new environment. Others take a long time to get comfortable and need a little more easing into a new place
What can do to settle children and make them feel at home at a nursery or childminder's?
- Label their belongings with their name and even a picture. Label their coat peg, their drawers for art and craft, and even their chair if there is one. Give them a sense that they belong in their new setting.
- Have photographic displays: pictures of them with their family and friends, or photos of days out and about.
- Have a special beaker or plate which is only theirs.
- Give them special jobs: cups are cleared away after each meal by one child, and the table is wiped by another child.
- Homecorners are an important part of making a child feel they belong. There are lots of things there that they can associate with home(play kitchen, play sofa or bed etc) and they can do lots of home role play.
- Routine can help settle a child too: if they know that certain things happen at certain times, they can take comfort from that. They can predict that a play outside comes after a snack or a story comes before a nap and can feel happy about that familiarity.
- Special friends: bringing in a special teddy or doll is a great way to comfort those who are a little nervous.
Children become attached to all sorts of things: blankets, muslin squares, cushions, dolls or bears etc. Years ago children were not encouraged to have a 'comforter' but today its considered acceptable.
Should children have a 'comforter'?
- Comforters offer a link with home.
- Children associate them with happy times and feeling relaxed and secure so can make them feel better if they are nervous.
- They can help with getting children off to sleep as they associate the comforter with being happy, and sleepy at home.
- They can be a 'constant' if children are being moved around settings or if their routine is changing.
- They learn to self sooth and often sleep better because of this.